Thursday, October 19, 2006

Block those pledge breaks

It's Fall pledge drive time for one of the two public radio broadcast stations here, a thing which always makes my level of goodwill toward the system plummet. I support the stations when I can (i.e., not at the moment), but it strikes me as unfair that those who do respond to the pleas and commit their money are not immediately spared the crapfest of begging for the remainder of the drive.

You get an initial bit of good-feeling when they thank you and maybe read your name on the air, but in the hours and days to come, what do you get for being upstanding? Only torture. You're at the mercy of the rest of the listening audience as to when the proceedings end, and who wants to trust those people?

Once the radio spectrum gets converted to digital, this can all end.

The idea is that at the time of a pledge, supporters would be given a limited-duration key to a station's secondary audio broadcast which would be blessedly free of fundraising activity. This incentive would be much, much better than a coffee mug or umbrella typically given out as a come-on! Special digital receivers would be built to accept a key that lucky listener would receive as part of the confirmation of their donation and this would unlock (unscramble, basically) the programming. The receiver would be portable, so that you could unlock it when you're at home, then stick it in your vehicle and bring it to work with you too. I would make the key pairs would automatically change after a brief time interval, say 5 minutes, to reduce any incentive to share these valuable pieces of information over the Internet or by other means. The subscription to the secondary broadcast would last for however long the fund drive lasts, and then become useless when the encryption would be turned off. Till next time.

Now I know this scheme is not bulletproof: the keys could be brute-forced, people could conspire to trade keys, the automatic key-changing algorithm could be attacked. But hey! these are public radio listeners we're talking about here, not people trying to hack access to a central bank, after all. More sinister would be the temptation for these broadcasters to go to into full-time fundraising mode, which would effectively turn their service to a sort of subscription radio for classical music and news junkies, sort of like the way the satellite radio companies run things.


Kelley said...

Now that is just plain brilliant.

As you said, I would hate to see it abused by the radio stations and turned into a subscription service, but I doubt it would come to that.

I really like this idea! It's a much better gift to your patrons than coffee mugs and t-shirts!

RichM said...

What if your favorite blog was to take a solid week to solicit donations, plastering banner ads all over its main page, popups everywhere you go, and even if you sent the owner some money, it kept on doing it?

Or if elementary schools cancelled classes twice a year to turn all the kids into relentless fundraising machines around the neighborhood, ones which wouldn't take No (or even Yes) for an answer? How awful would that be?!

I better stop now, because I'm beginning to frighten myself.